Olympic rings and torch

The recently held London 2012 Olympics represented the biggest ever deployment of temporary power for a sporting event in the UK. The provider Aggreko talks about the challenges this involved.

Kelvin Ross, Deputy Editor

The vastness of recent London 2012 Olympic Games was clear from the numbers involved: 15 000 athletes from 205 nations took part, while more than 2 million spectators passed through the gates of the Olympic Park.

Aggreko made its own contribution to the statistics, providing more than 260 MW of power using over 500 generator sets, 1500 km of cable and 4500 distribution panels. It was the biggest deployment of temporary power for a single sporting event ever in the UK. Aggreko’s technology featured at each of the 54 venues during the Games to provide prime or backup power.

The event was the culmination of two years’ work by the company. While before the Games the headlines focused on athletes qualifying and training for London 2012, behind the scenes Aggreko’s Olympics began in earnest in 2011 when it was named as the exclusive supplier of temporary energy services to the London 2012 Olympic and Parlympic Games.

The company was fully operational months in advance of the opening ceremony, working to prepare for this major event from two dedicated operation centres close to the Olympic Park.

Aggreko engineers and event management experts were involved in the ‘London Prepares’ event series, part of the preparation for the London 2012 Games which enabled the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) to test key aspects of operational readiness. The programme of international sporting events was hosted at a series of venues to test systems, operational approaches and procedures. Aggreko supported LOCOG at the major venues during the various phases of the London Prepares event series, including the Velodrome and the Hockey Centre.

The first phase of test events was successfully completed in 2011, with Aggreko providing temporary power and engineering support at Horse Guards Parade, home to the beach volleyball and at Eton Dorney, the venue for the rowing and canoe events. In addition, Aggreko provided temporary power to test all venues’ systems, as part of the commissioning process. The test events enabled the Aggreko team to work with LOCOG on design solutions to meet individual requirements and to work with venue teams to build good working relationships at an operational level.

Horse Guards Parade, for example, has limited space available and restricted access routes requiring close co-ordination with other contractors. In Greenwich Park, where the equestrian events took place, there is a requirement to be sensitive to the surroundings and potential impact on local residents.

The temporary on-site power equipment was in place well-ahead of the London 2012 Games
The temporary on-site power equipment was in place well-ahead of the London 2012 Games

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is one reason for the considerable capital investment Aggreko has made in new fleet this year: a total of £350 million ($550 million). Over 170 generators manufactured at Aggreko’s new £22 million state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Dumbarton, Scotland, and 11 transformers were transported to London by train to support the LOCOG’s commitment to minimise environmental impact.

Once the Paralympic Games finishes, the new temporary power equipment will be utilised immediately at a number of other locations.

Aggreko’s specialist engineering team, led by its head of Olympics Business, Robert Wells, brought a wealth of relevant experience to the project gained from working on other major international sporting events, such as the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa and the Vancouver 2012 Winter Olympic Games.

The Olympic Stadium in London is powered by a purpose-built trigeneration (cooling, heat and power) energy scheme.
The Olympic Stadium in London is powered by a purpose-built trigeneration (cooling, heat and power) energy scheme.

Their experience enables Aggreko to provide temporary energy services for London 2012 on an unprecedented scale and complexity, with the team project managing all aspects of the temporary power packages, including system design, mobilisation, installation, operation and maintenance.

The solution had to allow for new developments including the growth in popularity of high-definition television and the increased use of internet technologies. As well as powering the opening and closing ceremonies, Aggreko provided vital back-up power to the various stadia and Olympic sites across the UK. In addition, the company provided power for the ‘overlay’ (or additional infrastructure capacity) of the Games, which includes hospitality, security, ticketing, kitchens and the International Broadcast Centre – powering computer equipment and TV feeds for journalists from around the world.

This developing expertise will be vital to Aggreko’s bids for other major events in the future, which include the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the Russia Federation, the 2014 Hockey World Cup, the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the Rugby World Cup in 2015. The core Aggreko team for London 2012 was supported by up to 200 engineers, electricians and other staff, all of whom enhanced their skills working on the event.

“Our continued commitment to innovation will help ensure the London 2012 Games are truly the world’s greatest sporting events,” said Wells. “But for us, the five weeks of the Games are by no means the end. The engineering expertise and new equipment we use in delivering this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games will also benefit future events and are key to our ongoing success, helping Aggreko to remain at the forefront of the industry.”

CCHP energy centre powers Olympic Park

The Olympic Park is powered by two purpose-built energy centres, the largest in the UK. They were built to generate low-carbon heating and cooling across the site for the Games and for the new buildings and communities that are intended to develop in the surrounding area of Stratford after 2012.

Designed, financed and built by Cofely, a subsidiary of GDF Suez, the 46 MW centre includes a gas fired combined cooling heat & power (CCHP) plant and biomass boilers running on wood chips to generate heat.

Cooling of up to 16 MW is provided through a combination of electric, ammonia-based chillers and absorption chillers that are driven by heat recovered from the centre. Cofely will operate the centre for 40 years.

Three GE 3.3 MW Jenbacher J620 cogeneration units are powering the energy centres, generating electricity equivalent to the amount consumed by 24 000 standard UK homes.

The centres are designed to operate in trigeneration mode to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Chilled water is generated by absorption chillers using the high-temperature heat available from the exhaust of the unit. By using this technology, about 13 000 tonnes of CO2 savings can be achieved.

The first energy centre, featuring two GE J620 natural gas cogeneration modules, is located in the Stratford City development area and supports various Olympic Park activities, as well as the commercial redevelopment in East London.

The second centre, located at Kings Yard on the western end of Olympic Park, features one J620 cogeneration system that generates thermal power for the Aquatics Centre’s swimming pools and other venues via the Olympic Park’s district heating network.

The Kings Yard facility also generates electrical and thermal power for other venues, homes and buildings in the area. Both energy centres include boilers that use natural gas as feedstock to generate additional heat to meet peak demands. The Kings Yard facility also includes a 3 MW boiler fuelled with wood chips to generate additional heat during the winter.

“GE’s fuel-flexible Jenbacher cogeneration systems are ideally suited to support the London 2012 Games by offering the right combination of reliability, fuel flexibility and reduced emissions that will enable the Olympic Development Authority to meet its important environmental commitments to the city of London,” said Rafael Santana, president of GE Energy’s gas engines business.

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said: “It is a fantastic achievement that the Olympic Park is powered locally. Not only will it generate electricity but the heat from that process will also be used to heat and cool buildings providing a valuable wider legacy for the vibrant new metropolitan quarter we are creating in east London.”

At the end of last year, the district energy scheme was awarded the ‘Public Sector’ award by the UK CHP Association.

Step-change lights renewable way

A walkway leading to the Olympic Park was be lit round-the-clock by the footsteps of a million spectators during the London 2012 Games.

The award-winning British renewable technology from Pavegen Systems was commissioned by the Olympic Delivery Authority to light a temporary bridge leading from West Ham underground station – one of the three transport hubs feeding the Games – to the Olympic Park.

Twelve energy harvesting floor tiles received more than 12 million impressions, generating 20 kWh, or 72 million joules of energy – enough to power a small electric car for 397 laps of the Olympic track. The power was used to illuminate the walkway for eight hours at full power during the night, and 16 daylight hours at half power. As well as 24-hour lighting, the units also produced an energy surplus of around 35 per cent, which was stored as a contingency in batteries onboard the units.

When stepped on, the tile surface flexes 5 mm, converting kinetic energy to between 5 and 7 W over the duration of the footstep, depending on the force of the impact.